Interstate 59

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Interstate 59 joins the largest city in Alabama, Birmingham, with Tuscaloosa to the west and Gadsden to the northeast. Totaling 449 miles in length, I-59 links the New Orleans metropolitan area and the central Gulf Coast with Chattanooga and the Mid-Atlantic states via connections with I-75 and I-81. Interstate 59 overlaps with I-20 for 130.10 miles in Alabama and overall from Meridian, Mississippi to Birmingham International Airport (BHM).

I-59/20 traverses rural areas northeast from Meridian, Mississippi to Tuscaloosa. Growth along the stretch between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham adds traffic as the two metropolitan areas expand toward one another. Widening projects expanded most of the 35 mile drive between I-359 and I-459 to six lanes. Within Birmingham, I-59/20 serves Downtown Birmingham and regional traffic north to Huntsville and Nashville, Tennessee via Interstate 65 while I-459 carries the bulk of bypassing traffic east to Georgia.

The interchange with Interstate 65 northwest of Downtown Birmingham, known locally as "Malfunction Junction", is one of the busiest in the entire state. An elevated viaduct emerges from the exchange east to U.S. 31 and the west end of U.S. 280 at the Red Mountain Expressway. This stretch is being rebuilt as part of a $450-million, four-year project. Work expands I-59/20 to ten overall lanes with a new system of ramps to and from Downtown and flyovers added at I-65. The I-59 / I-20 Bridge Replacement Project includes a total shutdown of the freeway mainline in 2019 while crews tear down the 1971-built viaducts.

East from Downtown Birmingham, Interstates 59 and 20 separate, with I-59 reducing to four lanes despite its increasing role as a commuter route to Trussville. Northeast of Trussville, the traffic drops significantly along the rural freeway en route to Gadsden and the Georgia state line. The least traveled stretches of I-59 in the Heart of Dixie are located between Gadsden and Fort Payne.

Interstate 59 Alabama Guides

22.3 miles of Interstate 59 opened in 1965 between Attalla and Collinsville (Exit 205).1

Interstate 59 scenes
22nd Street N south at the westbound entrance ramp to I-59/20. This ramp joined the left side ahead of "Malfunction Junction". Photo taken 08/10/02.
Westbound Steele Station Road at the northbound on-ramp to Interstate 59 at Steele. Steele Station Road connects the freeway with U.S. 11 and Chandler Mountain via County Road 42 west from town. Photo taken 11/03/11.
19th Street east from Ensley becomes Bush Boulevard at the half diamond interchange with I-59/20 in Birmingham. Photo taken 10/20/12.
Since I-59/20 are already within the Birmingham city limits at the Bush Boulevard on-ramp, the control point of Downtown is used. Traffic from 20th Street and Avenue Y funnels into this ramp as well. Photo taken 10/20/12.

Sources:
  1. "61 Miles of Interstate Will Open During 1965." Times Daily (Florence, AL), May 11, 1965.


Photo Credits:

08/10/02, 11/03/11, 10/20/12 by AARoads

Connect with:
Interstate 20
Interstate 65
Interstate 359
Interstate 459
Interstate 759 - Gadsden Spur
U.S. 11

Page Updated 02-18-2016.